The Truth about Sleep and Your CareerSleep: the key to thriving in today's workforce.

Getting more sleep is essential to thriving in today’s workforce. Yet, 65% of the U.S. adult population fail to get 7-9 hours of recommended sleep each night.

A lack of sleep not only comes with personal mental and physical costs to the individual, but according to a RAND study, is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year, which is 2.28% of the country's GDP, or roughly one quarter of the U.S. federal budget on education.

Sleep positively impacts every single part of the human brain and body. It nourishes your emotional health, helps you learn faster, retain information with greater clarity, improves your focus, creativity, physical wellbeing, and even your ability to regulate emotions.

Given the importance of skills like collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication in today’s workplace — and for students who will be entering the workforce in the years to come — it’s time we as a society, reframe our relationship to sleep and create new adages like, “If you don't snooze, you’ll lose.” Because if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re set to lose a lot more than we previously thought.

Sleep makes you healthier.

Sleep positively impacts every single aspect of your mental and physical health. When you sleep, your immune system is given a boost, which decreases your chances of not only getting the common cold, but your chances of developing cancer.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep increases your risk of some cancers. Getting quality sleep on a nightly basis decreases your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, and diabetes and flushes out toxins that are known to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“European study for 25,000 participants showed that sleeping six hours or less increase your risk of developing cancer by 40% — relative to those sleeping seven hours or more.”
― Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Sleep makes you smarter.

Getting more z’s makes you smarter. Studies show that sleep, before and after learning new material, not only measurably improves your ability to recall the information in the short-term, but in the days and weeks after learning new content.

If you’re sleep deprived, you miss the vital window of transferring new information or new memories to long-term storage. Meaning, you’re likely to forget key aspects of important negotiations, critical technical information, and are more likely to make mistakes. Research shows that children who have 45-55 more minutes of sleep every night develop a higher IQ. On the other hand,  surgeons who are sleep deprived are 36% more likely to make serious medical errors.

Getting enough sleep also helps you think more clearly. If you’re sleep-deprived you’re essentially functioning as though you’re intoxicated. Meaning your rational brain is being sedated. Your response time drops and are less likely to think clearly, or coherently.

School districts across the country are pushing back start times to help students (particularly those in middle school and high school) get more sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, individual schools or districts in 19 states have pushed back their start times, and more than 100 school districts in 17 states are considering delaying their school start times. Research has shown significant academic and mental health benefits for both secondary and postsecondary-level students:

Sleep improves your mental health.

Sleep has a massive effect on your mood. Getting enough sleep resets your emotional regulation, by refreshing the connections between your amygdala and your pre-frontal cortex (the emotional and logical parts of your brain.) More sleep, means you’re less likely to act impulsively, have mood swings, suffer from anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.

When our emotions are better regulated, we’re better communicators and collaborators and are more likely to operate from a positive perspective.

How much sleep do you need?

How much sleep you need changes over the course of your lifetime, as does your circadian rhythm, or your natural waking and sleeping cycle. Adults need 7-9  hours of sleep. Teenagers need 8-10 hours. Yet, the differences in circadian rhythms between adults and teenagers can be 1-3 hours apart. Meaning that it can be harder for teens to go to bed early and/or wake up early, and harder for adult to stay up late.

 “After sixteen hours of being awake, the brain begins to fail. Humans need more than seven hours of sleep each night to maintain cognitive performance. After ten days of just seven hours of sleep, the brain is as dysfunctional as it would be after going without sleep for twenty-four hours. Three full nights of recovery sleep (i.e., more nights than a weekend) are insufficient to restore performance back to normal levels after a week of short sleeping.”
— Dr. Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

Why is sleep so important, today?

Sleep is literally the magic pill for improving outcomes on all 21st century skills

When we get enough sleep we can think more clearly and creatively. We’re better communicators and collaborators because we can see the bigger picture more clearly and are less likely to be triggered by an emotional response, or linger in anxious or depressed moods.

“When we’re happy (and well slept), we’re more 31% more productive and 37% better at sales than at negative, neutral or stressed.”
—  Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage

Want to learn how you can get more quality sleep? Check out Seek United’s Workshop, The Power of Sleep.

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About The Author

Brianna Harrington

Brianna Harrington is the founder of Seek United, a Minneapolis-based organization specializing in executive health and wellness.

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